By Kieran Rooney
DUBLIN and the England soccer team, sadly, have something in common. They concede goals, lots of them.
In the case of the Dubs it was five in their Leinster Senior Football Championship semi-final against their old rivals Meath at Croke Park. Meath's ability to get goals brought them a 5-9 to 0-13 success and a place in the Leinster decider against surprise packets Louth on Sunday week.
Dublin will now have to regroup and go into the second round of the qualifiers where they have been drawn against Tipperary. On the evidence of their campaign to date, it's hard to have any real confidence in their ability to progress too far.
Compare Dublin's fortunes with those of no hopers Louth who defeated Westmeath 1-15 to 2-10 in the second match at Croke Park on Sunday to make it into their first Leinster final in 50 years.
At least the Dubs are still in the competition. That's more than can be said of Mayo who crashed out in the first round of the qualifiers when losing 1-12 to 0-14 to Longford with manager John O'Mahony announcing his resignation shortly afterwards.
Elsewhere, Galway produced a remarkable recovery to snatch a 1-10 to 1-10 draw with Sligo in the Connacht Senior Football semi-final at Pearse Stadium. Monaghan, somewhat predictably, proved far too good for Fermanagh in the Ulster semi-final, winning 0-21 to 2-8.
Back to that Meath victory over Dublin before an attendance of 60,035 at Croke Park. While there will be much talk about how Dublin yet again failed to deliver, a huge amount of praise must go to the Meath men for the manner of their victory.
Remarkably, they will be contesting their first Leinster final for nine years. There are definite signs, particularly in attack, they they can cause any side problems.
Okay, the real tests are still to come, and they will need to improve in centerfield, but they did everything that was asked of them. The last time, after all, that the Dubs conceded five goals in the championship was back in 1978 against the then great Kerry attack.
Man of the Match Stephen Bray got two of the goals, with the others coming from Cian Ward, Joe Sheridan and Brian Farrell. What's more, all but three of their 5-9 total came from open play.
Unsurprisingly, the respective managers, Pat Gilroy from Dublin and Meath's Eamonn O'Brien were in very different moods afterwards. Gilroy was at loss to explain why their whole system collapsed.
No such worries for O'Brien. "It was one of those days when things start going right for you and continue to go wrong for Dublin." he argued.
O'Brien was referring to the fact that Dublin had so much possession, particularly after the interval, yet were destroyed on the scoreboard. Somehow, Meath managed to outscore the Dubs 4-4 to 0-5 in the second half. Gilroy had opted to change the defensive strategy which saw the Dubs through the National League and first half of the Wexford match for a more orthodox system. It simply didn't work.
"The goals finished it. Meath took their chances really well, although they didn't have much of the ball. You con't concede five goals and hope to win" stressed Gilroy.
Now it's going to be interesting to see how Meath perform against Louth in the Leinster decider. Louth are going to be the outsiders but that's how they like it.
They have continued to upset the odds to get to their first Leinster final since 1960. The last time they won the Leinster title was back in 1957.
Yet again, they were well deserving of their victory. They were always the better team, although two second half Westmeath goals did provide the Louth fans with some anxious moments near the finish.
Westmeath, in fact, got to within a point but Colm Judge then came up with the insurance point for Louth. Earlier Judge had secured an important goal but the real hero for Louth was their inspirational midfielder and captain Paddy Keenan.
If that finish was tense, it had nothing on what happened in the Connacht semi-final. Sligo must still be wondering how they failed to beat Galway, instead of having to settle for a 1-10 to 1-10 draw.
They led by nine points (1-8 to 0-2) at half-time, and were still in front by 1-10 to 0-9 going into injury time. Yet, the 14 men of Galway were allowed to snatch a draw with a goal from Eoin Concannon and a free by Gareth Bradshaw in the three minutes of added time.
Understandably, Galway manager Joe Kernan was delighted with the way his team refused to throw in the towel but the truth is that they were let off the hook. The only consolation for a hugely disappointed Sligo manager Kevin Walsh is that next Saturday's semi-final replay will be in Sligo's home ground of Markievicz Park.
Fermanagh were another team to get some late scores, in their case two goals, but it hardly matter because they were generally outplayed by Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final at Breffni Park. Monaghan again showed that they are a quality outfit that will take a lot of beating when they take on Tyrone in the Ulster final.
They coasted through this match. There were many fine performances from a team scoring 21 points , with perhaps the best of them coming from Conor McManus at full-forward.
A number of managers felt the pressure as their sides went out in the first round of the football qualifiers. Mayo's John O'Mahony resigned following Mayo's 1-12 to 0-14 at the hands of Longford.
John Joe Doherty's reign as Donegal boss is also at an end following their 2-14 to 0-11 defeat by Armagh, while Mick O'Dwyer's stint in charge of Wicklow may well be finished after his team lost 0-15 to 2-8 to a Seanie Johnston inspired 13 man Cavan outfit.
Elsewhere, Derry beat Carlow (1-18 to 2-9), Offaly got the better of Clare (2-18 to 1-18 after extra-time), Tipperary pipped Laois (0-13 to 0-12), Wexford outclassed London (4-22 to 0-9) and Kildare drew 0-15 to 0-15 after extra-time with Antrim.
Once again, their supporters are at loss to explain why Mayo should flop so badly. Sean McCormack was the Longford hero, firing over a last gasp winner.
Afterwards John O'Mahony commented: "I just told the players that I am stepping down as manager of Mayo. I have put four years into it.
"But it's a results driven game from a management point of view. I just feel that I have done everything I can."
Longford's reward is a tough round two qualifier against Down. The full round two draw is: Kildare/Antrim v Leitrim; Dublin v Tipperary; Cork v Cavan; Offaly v Waterford; Galway/Sligo v Wexford; Fermanagh v Armagh; Down v Longford; Westmeath v Derry.
Galway hurlers do it in replay
IT took a couple of injury time points to give Galway a 3-17 to 2-18 success over Offaly in the Leinster Hurling Championship semi-final replay at Portlaoise on Saturday evening.
Hard work then for Galway but, if their manager John McIntyre was in any way disappointed, he didn't show it. He was delighted with the way his team, which had been reduced to 14 men, came good in those dramatic closing minutes.
This was another cracking game. Galway led 2-9 to 0-7 at half-time, only to be pegged by an Offaly outfit which once again greatly enhanced their reputation.
But, right at the death, with extra-time looming, Joe Canning took possession 55 meters out and close to the left touchline. No bother, Canning showed his genius to strike his shot between the posts.
Just for good measure, Ger Farragher then pointed a free but this was as tough as it gets for Galway. More, very clearly, will be needed when they take on Kilkenny in next Sunday's Leinster final, but McIntyre is looking forward to it.
He said: "We are where we want to be now, first in the queue to dethrone the All-Ireland Champions. I appeal to all Galway sports fans to come to Croke Park to support us."
Offaly will take on Limerick in round two of the qualifiers, with Dublin facing Clare. That encounter will have some added interest because Clareman Anthony Daly is now in charge of Dublin.
Carlow took the scalp of Laois 1-19 to 3-12 in an exciting preliminary round qualifying round at Dr Cullen Park on Saturday. They will face Antrim, who beat Down 4-22 to 1-11 to retain their Ulster title, in round one of the preliminary competition.
[Chris O'Connor of Meath, right, puts Dublin's Tomas Quinn under pressure at Croke Park. INPHO/DONALL FARMER]